It may seem like a bold statement to make but Parma should aim for third place in this season’s Serie A.
The Crociati have gone unbeaten in their last 14 Serie A matches and if current form permits, they can make the most of the slip-ups made by the teams around them. For instance, Napoli and Fiorentina are struggling to gain points in the battle for the final UEFA Champions League spot.
The Napolitani have won two, drawn two and lost one of their last five matches and that includes a 3-0 loss to Atalanta and a 1-1 to Livorno, opponents that Napoli should be beating. The Viola have won one, drawn one and lost three of their last five matches and it’s apparent that Giuseppe Rossi’s injury and Borja Valero’s suspension has affected Vincenzo Montella’s side.
Inter Milan has looked out of sorts. Walter Mazzarri has replaced Andrea Stramaccioni on the Nerazzurri bench but the former Napoli coach is still insisting on using veterans. Inter also went winless in January, drawing two matches and losing just as many. Mazzarri also persists with Rodrigo Palacio as a lone striker when he would be better off with a partner like Mauro Icardi in attack.
Hellas Verona, as based on last week’s evidence, look weaker without Luca Toni in attack. If Andrea Mandorlini’s side is to stay in the hunt for European action, it needs the veteran forward to keep firing in the goals.
AC Milan is getting results under Clarence Seedorf but it is still unconvincing. Although Mario Balotelli was missing, the Rossoneri showed that they lack the firepower to beat the big teams, as witnessed in the 2-0 loss to Juventus.
These squads are lacking the consistency that Parma and although the current vintage is not as good as the Ducali squads of the 1990s, coach Roberto Donadoni has a good squad at his disposal.
Antonio Mirante is a part of Italy’s 31-man pre-World Cup training squad in Rome that will go on from March 10 until the 12th. The Parma goalkeeper is one of the so-called fringe players in the camp, while most of the others are Italian youth internationals.
Centre-back Gabriel Paletta made his debut in Italy’s recent 1-0 loss to Spain and he was undoubtedly the best performer in an otherwise disappointing Azzurri performance. Based on that showing, the Parma defender should be in Cesare Prandelli’s World Cup squad.
Marco Parolo was called-up for the friendly but he didn’t play. He did play in the 2-2 draw against Nigeria last year, in which he squandered chances to win the game for Italy. At club level, he is second on Parma’s leading goalscorer list with seven goals, two goals behind Antonio Cassano. Not a bad feat for a midfielder.
Cassano himself hasn’t played for Italy since Euro 2012 but when he has played under Prandelli, he has played some of his best football in an Italian jumper. For Parma, Cassano has scored nine goals and provided five assists.
Jonathan Biabiany offers great pace on the right-wing and he has been a transfer target for Juventus for some time. The Frenchman has been used as a wing-back in the 3-5-2 formation but he is best suited as wide forward in the 4-3-3.
There are other internationals in the Parma squad too. Former Italian internationals Mattia Cassani and Cristian Molinaro occupy the full-back roles and Uruguayan international Walter Gargano has been gaining regular action in central midfield in recent months.
Qualification for Europe would be great redemption for Donadoni. He jumped into the Italy job too soon, flopped at Napoli and as coach of Cagliari, he was sacked before the 2011-12 season had started. Donadoni has been at the club for over two seasons and his teams can adapt to both the 3-5-2 and 4-3-3 formations.
Parma president Tommaso Ghirardi was interviewed recently on ParmaLive about the prospect of playing in Europe next season. He said: ”I’m a very practical and realistic.
“A goal is never made because we have to be very honest and keep our feet on the ground but now we’re playing for Europe so it is right that we have the dream of wanting to try.”
With the squad Parma has and the inconsistency of its rivals, the Europa League would be an excellent achievement but Donadoni could and should aim higher.